The All Day Outfit Already In Your Closet: Part I

Casey of Dressed to Code holds out a lemon cupcake from Jenny Cookies Bake Shop.
Are cupcakes the latest accessory?

An Outfit for All

Growing up, the concept of day-to-night was one that never really resonated with me. Where I was raised in Southern California, the hot days and cool nights meant that cycling through three different outfits a day wasn’t unusual. Of course, as someone who works in tech and rarely gets dresses-and-heels dolled up, it still feels mostly irrelevant. However, with Seattle’s long summer days, the idea of one outfit to take me from work to other activities now has merit. As the sun currently sets around 9 pm, this concept is less about day-to-night and more about an all-day look. While nothing work-appropriate is going to take me to the gym, there are plenty of options versatile enough for a variety of activities.

After wearing this look to work one day, I felt very comfortable in my own skin. The sneakers add that critical third neutral but keep me comfortable during my commute and standing at my desk. Even better, my boss wore a variation on the formula the next day. Overnight, it became one of those looks I threw on as soon as it came out of the laundry, and I began thinking about how I could tweak it.

As a nod to this concept of the all-day outfit, I’m posting more than one version this look, along with a few personal notes!

Dressed to Code - The All Day Outfit - Work
Looking back, this outfit is a natural progression from many of my intentional wardrobe choices.

The Outfit Formula

As time goes on, I’ve been expressing a little more of the style you see on the blog at the office. That doesn’t mean complicated or fancy, but I’ve been branching out from the standard jeans and tee shirts. As part of this, I’ve been paying close attention to the clothing choices of women around me at work.  The styles range from jeans and sweatshirts to photographer-worthy street fashion.

One of the outfits I started consistently noticing and appreciating has a few different iterations, but there’s an easy formula:

1. black dress or jumpsuit
2. denim jacket or chambray shirt
3. shoes in a third neutral color

The most common version I see is a knee length black dress with a denim jacket and brown booties or sandals. It’s a great, classic look, and an easy Monday no-brainer.

My wardrobe wishlist already has strong influence from this three-neutral scheme, specifically black-blue-brown. That said, I didn’t own a jean jacket at the time and wasn’t about to wear my heeled sandals to work. (I have since purchased a denim jacket and immediately wore it almost every day for a week, but that’s a story for another post.) One of the great things about moving toward an intentional wardrobe is having cohesive pieces that easily lend themselves to new combinations in the same aesthetic.

Dressed to Code - The All Day Outfit - Work
Swap out the dress, throw on a jacket — this outfit is only the beginning.

Part I: An Outfit that Works

First up is my original pairing for my causal office. For this variation, I layered my dark wash chambray shirt over an old favorite dress and tossed on my white Stan Smiths. You likely have everything you need to pull this off already tucked away in your closet. I’ve also worn this look to work with a black maxi dress swapped in. Unless we’re in a particularly chilly meeting room, I keep the sleeves rolled up, and I like how the turned-up cuffs lighted up the outfit. Not shown in these photos is my badge, which I wore on a royal blue lanyard with this look.

Wearing a badge is certainly a new complication to consider when choosing outfits in the morning. I have two ways to wear mine. The first is a lanyard I wear around my neck, and the second is a combination clip and carabiner badge holder that I can hook on a belt loop or clip on a waistband (similar).

Dark Wash Denim Shirt

This denim shirt (Banana Republic, Riley Fit 2P, Summer 2016) was one I picked up on sale because it checked off all my boxes. The petite fit is comfortable, the material is stretchy, the sleeves roll up well, and the dark wash keeps it a little less casual. Initially, I struggled somewhat to pair it with my dark-wash wardrobe, but once I threw it on over black pants, dresses, and skirts, this no-iron option became a weekly staple. As an added bonus, denim with denim has come back in favor, so I do occasionally just wear it with jeans.

High Neck Black Sheath

I don’t remember why I originally bought this dress (Loft, 00P, ~2009), but I’ve ended up wearing it for two different momentous photographed occasions, first as part of a rare family photo shoot and again for my college graduation photos (shot by Michelle Chan).

If you’re wondering how the same dress could possibly fit for so long, I was wearing a scoliosis back brace when I initially bought it. Yes, that kind of brace — a bulky, stiff thing from my armpits to my hips. The thick material of this dress hid the brace completely, and looking at the family photos, you wouldn’t have a clue. Side note: If you or someone you love is getting a brace, please reach out to me for support, encouragement, and clothing tips. I have high school classmates who saw me daily and still don’t have a clue I wore one.

Stan Smith Sneakers

If you saw my original post on these sneakers (Adidas, US 6), you know that I resisted buying them for a long time. That said, they’re now the ones I reach for first during the week. Thankfully, they also stay fairly clean and wipe down easily. Because my current pair of jeans is still staining my legs and clothing, the inside of the tongue is now navy. Oops. Additionally, I like the pop of green on the back, which adds just a touch of color my mostly-neutral outfits. Best of all, these sneakers look crisp and white while keeping my feet happy.

Casey of Dressed to Code holding a lemon cupcake from Jenny Cookies Bake Shop.
Nothing says celebration quite like a cupcake, and the blueberry on top coordinated well with the shirt.

One Year Update

This time last year, I was a recent graduate who had just moved to Seattle full-time. Torn between job hunting and taking some breathing room, I soon needed something else to do. This blog began out of a need for something to focus on that felt productive when other aspects of my life didn’t. What I didn’t expect was the warm welcome from the Seattle blogging community, the incredible people I’d meet, and a shift in the way I see myself.

A year later, I am an employed software development engineer, one of several adult-sized steps toward adulthood I’ve taken in the past year. There have been ups and downs, but I’m gaining a clearer picture of my life, my loves, and my let-it-gos.

So, as part one of this celebratory mini-series, I’m toasting (with a cupcake) to professional growth, a significant life change, and hanging in there!

The cupcake is lemon from Jenny Cookies in Lake Stevens, WA. In my informal taste-test, one of the three testers rated this cupcake their top pick.

When your goals seem far away, look back to see how far you’ve already come.
-Casey

Summertime Swimsuits (+ Shipping Saga)

This J Crew halter bikini top in black and palm print covers from the base of the neck to just below the bust. There are two different bottoms, and the black pair has more coverage than the palm print. Both are resting on a grey towel on a medium wood floor.
The palm print certainly pops in photos, but the classic black bikini works well with my fair (sunscreen-loving) skin.

Shopping for Swimsuits

Swimsuits are a place in your wardrobe where it’s easier to add color or try something a little different because 95% of the time, you aren’t wearing anything else with them. At least, that’s true for me. Additionally, I require swimsuits that I can functionally swim in, so underwire and necklines that gape are out. Nonetheless, I still want a flattering, comfortable, suit that I feel good wearing. No surprise, I’m also a fan of classic black suits with my fair skin.

Before this, the lone bathing suit in my closet was better suited (if you pardon the pun) for my own backyard. That is to say, it didn’t quite cover everything I would like covered out in public. It certainly qualified as a “desperation purchase” — you know, the thing you buy because it somewhat fits and you don’t detest it as much as the other 50 you’ve seen? (If that feeling sounds like your entire closet, check out my Intentional Wardrobe.)

As part of my efforts to buy great pieces that will last more than one summer, I was pleased to hear high praise for J. Crew’s bathing suits, even if the price tag was a little high. (Okay, so probably a lot higher than any suits I’ve bought before, but there have been some great sales!) Fast forward two months, and I’m very pleased with the two new suits in my wardrobe.

This J. Crew palm print two-piece halter swimsuit rests on a grey towel draped across a medium wood floor.
This palm-print halter top looks gorgeous in the water and out.

Swimsuits Shipping Saga

TL;DR: It took me a couple tries, but I found a swimsuit in both black and palm print that fits well and feels high quality.

Ideally, J. Crew would carry their swim line in stores, and it wouldn’t have taken me four (!!) orders to get the right combination of style, size and color. Chronologically, those orders were:

  1. Black scalloped bikini set (S, S), black halter set (S, XS, accidentally with charcoal grey bottoms), palm print halter set (S, XS)
  2. Black bottoms (XS, to instead of the dark grey)
  3. Black halter (XS), palm print halter (XS), and black bottoms (XXS)
  4. Palm print bottoms (XXS)

Orders 1 & 2: Let’s try on some swimsuits!

With the first order, the suits all went on sale less than a week after I ordered them, so J. Crew gave me a price adjustment, which was great. In person, the scalloped bikini set wasn’t impressive. The top was essentially unlined, and the overall appearance was nothing special. I loved the black cropped halter bikini top (size S), even if it was a little high on the neck, but accidentally ordered dark grey bottoms (XS) instead of black ones. When I noticed my order said “dark charcoal,” I had a black pair (XS) shipped to store to take advantage of the sale. The palm print halter was the same shape as the black one, but with this fun yet tasteful palm print. Thankfully, both halter tops arrived in the padded version, and while the XS bottoms weren’t as snug as I would have preferred, they did fit.

Order 3: Almost there…

Knowing that swimsuits tend to stretch when wet and hoping that the fit would be better if I sized down, I then ordered XXS seamed bikini boy shorts in black (the palm print was sold out), and XS black and palm print halters. The good news was that the XXS swim bottoms fit better. The bad news was that the black halter swim top arrived without padding this time, even though it had the same item number as  the first. (You’ll notice a series of padding or no padding debates in the comments and reviews.) The XS palm print halter did have padding, but I found that sizing down reduced coverage on the sides of the bust but did not lower the height of the  neckline noticeably.

Order 4: Wait, one more!

Thinking I was done, I decided to keep two suits, the black halter (S) and bottom (XXS), as well as the palm print halter (S) and bottom (XS). Although I checked a few times, the XXS palm print surf hipster bikini bottoms remained out of stock — until just now. (Sadly, I believe I snagged the last one because the size immediately went back out of stock afterward.) It’s on it’s way, and I’m hoping J. Crew will let me return the unworn XS with the tags still on it — fingers crossed. (Update: XXS bottoms did fit better, and J. Crew let me return the XS. Finally done.)

My biggest gripe in all this? Two day shipping through J.Crew is $20. I tried looking for the items on Amazon or Nordstrom, but no such luck. That meant that with free shipping, each of these orders took over a week to arrive. That said, the swimsuits I ended up with feel like they’ll be in my wardrobe for seasons to come, and I’m trying to focus on the (classic and very flattering) positive outcome.

This halter crop top bikini set from J. Crew features a nude-lined, palm-on-white print.
Thankfully, the partially-white bottoms are lined in a medium-nude color.

Fit Notes

For those of you who skipped the shipping saga, I ultimately kept four pieces:

  1. Black – cropped halter bikini top (S)
  2. Black – seamed bikini boy shorts (XXS)
  3. Palm print – cropped halter bikini top (S)
  4. Palm print – surf hipster bikini bottoms (XXS)

As you can see in the photos, the padding in the tops provides some structure. Given more support than your average triangle top, I certainly feel secure in this suit. Better yet, I was able to swim, flip, and splash around without fear of gaping or flashing. The padded cups are also generous enough to avoid an edge-of-padding ridge. While I’d certainly be careful about tying the strings at the neck and back, the ties are more important for keeping the suit on than holding you up. Plus, with the way the tie doubles up in the back, I’m less worried about the string stretching out. That said, the tops hardly count as petite friendly — one inch higher at the neck, and I wouldn’t be able to wear them.

While the difference is slight, the seamed boy shorts have a little more coverage than the surf hipster bikini bottoms. The seam down the side is subtle but elevates the shorts from basic black bottoms to something more substantial. In the photos, I have the palm print bottoms facing down; the lining is a medium nude color. The surf hipster bikini bottoms also cut somewhat higher in the leg than the bikini boy shorts.

Are you a canon-baller, a wade-in type, or a stay dry kind of person when it comes to swimsuit season? I know I’m the one with the sunscreen!

You have a body. Put on a bikini. There’s your bikini body.

-Casey

 

Summer Staples: Stripes, Shorts, and Sneakers!

Casey leans against a concrete wall in a boxy, structured, black and white, cropped top with classic high waist jean shorts, and bright white Stan Smith sneakers with green accents.
I can’t tell you if I was dancing or jumping an invisible rope in this shot.

In my last post, I talked about falling out of love with my closet. As promised, this story has a happy ending, or at least a happy next chapter. In the last few weeks, I’ve been focused on exercise and enjoying the gorgeous Seattle summer days. As a result, I’m feeling a lot more satisfied with many aspects of my life, including my body and work-life balance. While I still have some things I’m looking to add to my wardrobe, my empty closet syndrome has mostly dissipated. In time for summer, I found a few key staples — stripes, shorts, sneakers!

Casey's fine hair is swept back into a small bun and her hands rest on the back of her neck as her head tips back.
Stripes and small buns make for easy summer style.

Stripes

While I don’t usually go for boxy cropped tops, the thick yet cool fabric of this striped Madewell top makes it a little more special. The boat neck is also rather wide, so I sized down for a narrower, less bra-strap-revealing neckline. The setlist boxy tee in murphy stripe comes in two colors, and I’m wearing a size XXS.

 

Casey walks by in a boxy, structured, black and white, cropped top with classic high waist jean shorts, and bright white Stan Smith sneakers with green accents.
Summertime, and the styling is easy: stripes, jean shorts, and crisp white sneakers.

Shorts

I don’t see a need to sell you on jean shorts for summer. That said, I actually only grabbed these to try on with another top, but then they fit so well. Even better, I remembered that the last pair of jean shorts in my closet didn’t exactly fit any more. Needless to say, they came home with me! I went for a classic look with the J. Crew High-Rise Denim shorts in Brixton wash (size 25) but if you’re looking for a little more, this paint-splattered pair is pretty fun.

Hands on hips and a shoulder-wide stance show off the proportions of a striped, cropped top and high waist jean shorts with glaringly white sneakers.
This pairing of boxy crop top and high waist shorts isn’t my usual style, but it’s a fun one to mix it up.

Sneakers

In the spirit of full disclosure, I held off on buying these sneakers for quite some time for the exact reason that my mom had Stan Smiths the entire time I was growing up. Sometimes green, sometimes navy, these iconic shoes, Birkenstocks, and high-waisted mom jeans are high on the list of things my mom always wore that are now considered stylish.

That said, when these Adidas Stan Smith Sneakers went on sale at Nordstrom, I decided to go for it. I’ve worn them almost every day since. With my mostly-neutral wardrobe, the green is a fun pop of color, and they lighten up work looks, even when I’m still dressing for a cool office.

 

There you have it, a simple formula for easy summer style! What’s your summer style formula? Join the conversation here.

Stay hydrated and sunscreened this summer; nothing ruins an outfit like a headache or a sunburn!

– Casey

Nothing to wear? It’s not about your closet.

Casey of Dressed to Code is pulling her hair back from her face with both hands. She is gazing down and wearing a ribbed black boatneck t-shirt and dark denim skinny jeans.
Even within the bounds of black and denim, there is so much to play with in terms of shape and texture.

We’ve all been there. You open your closet and there’s nothing to wear. Okay, so not literally. There are a million reasons why you might feel that way, and in my experience, they’re accurately summed up by this quote:


“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.”

— Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman


 I’ve been in a nothing-to-wear funk for a couple weeks, which means that I have to be careful to not do two things. First, I ban myself from cleaning out my closet. In this kind of mood, nothing in my closet seems satisfactory, and I’m frequently tempted to empty my closet and whisk it all off to Goodwill. Not good. Second, I (mostly) ban myself from shopping for new pieces. In this kind of mood, I’m more likely to shop desperately, in the mindset that if I find that magic piece or two, my current feelings about my wardrobe will completely turn around. (Spoiler alert: It never works that way.) Together, that means that when the mood strikes, the wardrobe stays fixed. No additions. No subtractions.

Casey of Dressed to Code is smiling off to her right. In addition to a ribbed black boatneck t-shirt and dark denim skinny jeans, she is wearing blush leather lace-up sandals.
Just a girl standing in front of a closet, asking herself to love it.

The truth is, when I’m frustrated with my closet, it’s almost never about my closet. There isn’t a magical piece to pull everything together because it isn’t about the clothes. At all.

Three months into my new job, I’m starting to feel like I can tread water. However, I’ve been spending a lot of time at work, and not enough time on the rest of my life. It’s not the closet that I’ve been discontent with so much as my current work-life (un)balance — and the weather. This Seattle winter has been rough. To combat it, I started by focusing ten minutes a day on getting back to a healthier state. Ten little minutes a day: doable. In ten minutes, it’s amazing what you can do: writing in a journal, reading, setting up plans with friends, writing letters, etc. The list goes on. A realistic goal is often better than a big one. You can always upgrade your goal later, and the better you feel, the more energy you’ll have to do some of these things.

Casey of Dressed to Code has her back to the camera with her right arm extended upward to a peace sign. A black t-shirt is tucked into snug jeans with a black leather belt.
Find peace with your life. Then turn to your closet.

Black and Denim: A Closet Classic

Additionally, I asked myself to focus on what I like about my wardrobe. Clearly, there was a reason I bought these things in the first place. Eventually, I came back around to appreciating the theme that dominates my wardrobe: black and denim.

Black

This Madewell Musical Tee is a little snugger than my other black tees, and the boatneck neckline really shows off those collarbones. Altogether, it’s a little bit sexier than my other black tees.

Denim

If you read my review-recall post, you know that I’ve had terrible luck with Madewell denim after initially loving it. That said, having one presentable pair of jeans that might rip at any moment was anxiety-inducing, and after some truly awful attempts, bought another pair as a stopgap. These are the 9″ High Rise Skinny Jean in Larkspur Wash and still tint my legs (and sometimes hands) blue. They are, nonetheless, very comfortable.

Sandals

There’s something about working in such a male-dominated industry hat has me craving heels like never before. Thankfully, these Hinge stacked-heel beauties are comfortable!

Casey of Dressed to Code is perpendicular to the camera with her right sandal crossed over the left. Her right arm is at her waist, and she is wearing a ribbed black boatneck t-shirt and dark denim skinny jeans.
Yes, it’s that Madewell monogram again.

This post does have a happy ending! The sun is shining (hallelujah!), I have some fun activities planned this weekend with the wonderful people in my life. With things picking up, I also scored some truly exciting wardrobe additions, but that’s a story for another post!

(Spoilers on Twitter if you’re interested!)

Let me know what you’re doing to fix or maintain your life balance in the comments below!

Fight for your balance, friends.

-Casey

Recommendation Recall: Kodiak Boots and Madewell Denim

Dressed to Code in Moorea Seal Morley adjustable black wool hat with petite-friendly North Face Women's Stretch Thermoball jacket in matte black (TNF black), Madewell whisper cotton tee in black and white hardy stripe, Madewell 8" skinny jeans in quincy wash dark denim, and Kodiak Acadia waterproof insulated boots in caramel leather.
Two of the items in this photo have let me down in a big way.

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post, but I believe that it’s important to admit when your opinions have changed. So here it is, the post on which items haven’t retained my initial enthusiasm. That isn’t to say that these items might not be a good fit for someone else or that we didn’t have some good times together. Nonetheless, in the spirit of informed purchasing, here are my recommendation recalls.

The Bad News

Ammended Recommendation: Kodiak Arcadia Boots

First post here.

I purchased these boots at REI after realizing I was completely unprepared for a slushy winter day in Seattle. These insulated boots seemed to be just the thing, and I was drawn to the gorgeous coppery color. Clearly I wasn’t alone; I’ve noticed many REI employees sporting them as well. Why am I recalling my recommendation? They scuff horribly.

As one particularly annoying salesman explained to me, all leather shoes scuff (insert eyeroll here), but these Kodiak Arcadia boots age exponentially faster than any leather shoes I’ve ever owned. Within a day, I’d tripped over my own feet, introducing a long, pale gash down the side. Within a month, the boots look as though they’d been industrially aged for a vintage look. It might have been fine if that was my thing; spoiler: it’s not. Even shining the boots only improved the look temporarily.

Therefore, I’m amending my recommendation. The boots have kept my feet comfortable, warm, and dry. They have not kept their exterior style. If you’re looking for a vintage exterior look, these might actually be a good choice.

Rear view of Madewell radio tee, Quncy wash 8" skinny jeans, and Hinge Drea blush leather sandals.
These jeans may be comfortable, but they won’t last much longer.

Recalled Recommendation: Madewell Denim

First post here.

This one is especially painful. My relationship with Madewell denim goes back to my very first recommendation on Dressed to Code and extends to three different pairs of jeans (overalls so far not excluded). The first pair to go were my 8″ skinny jeans in Lakeshore wash. At the time, I thought there was nothing quite putting on your pants for work and realizing they’d worn through in the rear — with no idea when that happened. I was wrong. A few weeks later, my black 10″ skinny jeans (purchased several months after the Lakeshore pair) split down the inner thigh. Even better, it was Monday morning as I was en route to a special trip for work. Awesome.

After the first pair, I figured it was a fluke. After the second pair died in a different, yet spectacularly embarrassing way, I checked my third pair. The fabric in the seat is discolored and thinned; time’s ticking before it also wears through. Now, I get that all items wear out. That said, the oldest pair was about six months old. I don’t know about you, but I expect my jeans, of all items, to last longer than that. As an example, my beloved demi-curve Levis wore out after five years.

Now, before any denim experts start in, I don’t over-wash my jeans or put them in the dryer. I addition to losing ground on my intentional wardrobe, I’m now desperately seeking at least one replacement pair, preferably 99% cotton or higher. I’ve ordered a few pairs and have my fingers crossed for a winner or two. Otherwise, I’ll be out of pants in about a month. Yikes.

To be fair, Madewell’s customer service has been excellent, offering to refund my full purchase price both times. However, I’d rather have jeans I don’t need to replace every few months. I believe the wear might be mitigated if Madewell decided to offer a fit cut more generously through the hips, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater rear/back view.
Thankfully, this Eddie Bauer has been a pleasant surprise.

The Good News

To leave you on a more positive note, I’d like to also note items which have pleasantly surprised me, items which have exceeded my expectations.

Strong Recommendation: Eddie Bauer Flightplan Cardigan Sweater

I wear this sweater at least once a week. It’s chilly in my office, so this sweater keeps me warm but not too warm when layered over a cotton tee and jeans. Remember, my workplace is rather casual. The fabric has held up well and (knock on wood) hasn’t gotten fuzzy.

Which items have been your greatest disappointments or unexpected favorites? Have a denim recommendation of your own? Let me know in the comments below.

 

It’s better to be right eventually than wrong forever.

-Casey